NASA is funding an early-stage proposal to build a meshed telescope inside a crater on the far side of the moon, according to Vice.
This "dark side" is the face of the moon that is permanently positioned away from Earth, and as such it offers a rare view of the dark cosmos, unhindered by radio interference from humans and our by our planet's thick atmosphere.
The ultra-long-wavelength radio telescope, would be called the "Lunar Crater Radio Telescope" and would have "tremendous" advantages compared to telescopes on our planet, the idea's founder Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a robotics technologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote in a proposal.
NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts Program is awarding $125,000 for a Phase 1 study to understand the feasibility of such a telescope, Bandyopadhyay told Vice.
The telescope — designed as a wire mesh — would be deployed into a 2- to 3-mile-wide (3 to 5 kilometers) crater on the moon's far side. The 0.62-mile-diameter (1 km) wire-mesh telescope would be stretched across the crater by NASA's DuAxel Rovers, or wall-climbing robots, according to the proposal summary.
If built, the "Lunar Crater Radio Telescope" would be the largest filled-aperture radio telescope in the solar system, Bandyopadhyay wrote. A filled-aperture radio telescope is a telescope that uses a single dish to collect data rather than many dishes, according to Vice.
Because this telescope would be on the far side of the moon, it would avoid radio interference from Earth, satellites and even the sun's radio-noise during the lunar night. It would also let us gaze out into the cosmos without the veil of Earth's atmosphere.
The atmosphere reflects low-frequency wavelengths of light greater than 32.8 feet (10 meters), essentially blocking them from reaching ground-based telescopes. The telescope "could enable tremendous scientific discoveries in the field of cosmology by observing the early universe in the 10– 50m wavelength band...which has not been explored by humans till-date," Bandyopadhyay wrote.
Editor's Note: This story was updated on April 14 at 1:50 pm to clarify a statement about the radio-noise from the sun.
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Originally published on Live Science.
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Yasemin is a staff writer at Live Science, covering health, neuroscience and biology. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Science and the San Jose Mercury News. She has a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The article says the telescope array would be unaffected by the sun, but while the same side of the moon always faces the earth, any point on the moon's surfaces faces the sun once each 28-day orbit. I hope the error of logic is on the part of the writer and not NASA. Further, no mention is made of the fact that communication with earth would require one or more relay satellites in permanent lunar orbit. Shoddy thinking or shoddy writing.Reply
The article is clear. The moon will shield the scope from the earth, not the sun.Reply
It's a great idea, should have been done years ago.
If only we could use 90% of the back side.
Editor's Note: This story was updated on April 14 at 1:50 pm to clarify a statement about the radio-noise from the sun. (After my comment.)Reply
First Good Idea Since JFK Speech - NASA Brainstormers Come Up With New Idea!Reply
As the article clearly explains when read properly the telescope will be shielded from the Sun's interference during the lunar night, plus the Chinese already have a relay satellite over that side of the moon, and they might be up for a joint venture to save on costsReply
If read carefully all the way to the end, it is clear that the original article was edited to correct the lack of reference to lunar night. What you read is the edited version, and it seems you missed the editor's note.Reply